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Hunger in America
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July 3, 2009

The JOURNAL has been keeping an eye on how the economic crisis has been affecting America's food banks. Although some in the new analysis business are forecasting an economic upturn, those helping to feed the hungry have only seen demand for their services grow. Campaign Against Hunger in Brooklyn, New York has seen an increase in need of more than 60% in the past year. In Ohio, Second Harvest Foodbanks says demand for food assistance is increasing by 30% every quarter. In Western Michigan, distributions are up between 20 and 27% since January.

In addition, food banks are having to do more with less as state and federal funding levels remain stagnant or are cut. Some groups are getting a boost from stimulus funds, but as food costs rise those dollars don't go as far.

Use the map below to find out where you can give and get food aid in your locale.

In April 2009 Reuters reported another new record: "32.2 million people — one in every 10 Americans — received food stamps at the latest count." The news at the grocery store is grim for many. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food prices rose by 4% last year, the largest increase in 17 years. And, the USDA predicts they will rise another 4% this year. Eggs are up 40% in the past year; milk up 26% a gallon; a loaf of standard bread, 20%.

All across the nation families, government agencies and food banks are feeling the pinch. Almost one in l0 people in Ohio get food stamps; one in eight in Michigan, and one in six West Virginians. The rising food prices make that assistance worth less and less and food banks and pantries are facing increased need and those same higher prices.

The government has specific terms to quantify the nation's access to food — recently removing "hunger" from its designations.

  • Food security People have access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
  • Low food security: Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.
  • Very low food security: Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
The federal government reports its annual figures in numbers of "food secure." In 2006, 89 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the entire year. The remaining households (10.9 percent) were food insecure at least some time during that year, essentially unchanged from 11.0 percent in 2005. The prevalence of very low food security was 4.0 percent of households, also essentially unchanged from 2005 (3.9 percent).

America's Second Harvest profiles extensive demographic profiles of emergency food clients at charitable feeding agencies. Their Hunger Study 2006 found that 4.5 million different people receive emergency food assistance from the system in any given week.

Find out how you can get or give assistance through the links below and at America's Second Harvest:


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BILL MOYERS JOURNAL is not responsible for content on outside sites.

Published on July 3, 2009.

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Afghan child, Photo by Siobhan LynamNOW WITH BILL MOYERS: Life on the Edge
The 2002 NOW WITH BILL MOYERS broadcast "Life on the Edge" told the stories of families living in Oregon, a state found by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have a high rate of "food insecurity" and hunger.
References and Reading:
America's Second Harvest
America's Second Harvest provides nationwide a network of member food banks and engages our country in the fight to end hunger. You can search their database for a food pantry near you and get tips on how to donate and volunteer.

Family to Family
Family to Famiy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting families with more to families with less. The program creates a bridge between suburban communities with enough to share and some of our country's most impoverished areas.

Food Bank NYC
New York City's major hunger-relief organization. The Food Bank's initiatives focus on direct services, food sourcing and distribution, nutrition and health education, financial empowerment, disaster relief and policy and research.
"Funding cuts threaten food pantries,"
Teresa Taylor Williams, MUSKEGON CHRONICLE, June 27, 2009.

"Food bank to receive $22,000 worth of food"
CLOVIS NEWS JOURNAL, June 29, 2009.

"Food Banks Facing Deep Cuts"
NBC4i, COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 29, 2009.

"One in 10 Americans gets help from U.S. to buy food,"
Reuters, April 2, 2009.

"Americans' Food Stamp Use Nears All-Time High"
THE WASHINGTON POST, Jane Black, November 26, 2008.

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